Nate Diaz returned to the Octagon for the first time in nearly three years, and he picked up exactly where he left off. The Stockton, Calif., native dominated Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis from start to finish, winning a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27) as a +105 underdog in Saturday’s UFC 241 co-main event at Honda Center in Anaheim.
MajorWager had it 30-27 for Diaz.
Much as we suggested in our preview here at MajorWager, Diaz used his underrated wrestling and superior clinch game to wear out Pettis. From the clinch, he landed some brutal knees (see below).
Diaz’s pressure was the story of the scrap. Normally known as a slow starter, Diaz wasn’t playing that role in this three-round welterweight showdown.
“I’m used to fighting five rounds in my last bunch of fights,” Diaz said. “But with just three rounds, I knew I had to get to work fast.”
Diaz nearly finished Pettis in Round 3 several times, but Pettis had zero quit in him. He escaped a couple of submission attempts in the final stanza and took a lot of damage, but he was able to hang in there and go the distance before getting ushered to the hospital.
Diaz was in vintage form with every syllable from his mouth during the post-fight interaction with media members. After Joe Rogan asked him what it’s been like away from the game for three years inside the Octagon, Diaz replied, “Nick Diaz Army, mother fuckers!”
He continued and we’ll just let you listen here:
The Masvidal fight makes perfect sense. Diaz said, “All respect to the man (Masvidal); he’s a real gangster, but he ain’t no West-Coast gangster.”
BetOnline opened the potential showdown between Masvidal vs. Diaz as a pick ’em (-110 either way). As of Sunday night, Masvidal was a short -115 ‘chalk.’
As he joined ESPN+’s UFC 241 post-fight show, Diaz enjoyed watching highlights of his handy work:
In the main event, Stipe Miocic had to dig deep to score a fourth-round KO win over Daniel Cormier to win his heavyweight belt back from ‘DC.’ Cormier had won the first three rounds and seemed to be in cruise control.
Miocic got great corner advice before Round 4, as his coaches implored him to work the body. He took the advice, hammering Cormier with 12 lefts to the body in the round.
Miocic eventually landed a combination that floored Cormier, and he followed it up with punches to complete the finish as a +125 underdog. Miocic improved to 5-1 in six fights for the UFC’s heavyweight belt.
I didn’t waste any time calling the mild upsets as short underdogs by both Miocic and Nate last week, as you can see here:
Paulo Costa remained unbeaten by capturing a UD victory (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Yoel Romero as a +130 underdog. Both fighters were awarded an extra 50 large for Fight of the Night honors.
MajorWager scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Romero.
Will Cormier retire or seek a trilogy match with Miocic? He’ll certainly have that option, especially since Miocic already routed the heavyweight’s No. 1 contender, Francis Ngannou, in a one-sided affair at UFC 220.
**B.E.’s Octagon Nuggets**
–Derek Brunson opened the main card by handing 10th-ranked middleweight Ian Heinisch his first career UFC loss via unanimous decision (29-28 across) as a +125 underdog. Heinisch fell to 3-1 in four UFC appearances. Brunson will likely move up from eighth-ranked perch in the 185-pound loop.
–Cory Sandhagen improved to 12-1 overall and 5-0 in the UFC by beating perennial top-five bantamweight Raphael Assuncao by UD (30-27, 29-28, 30-27) as a -220 ‘chalk.’
–Khama Worthy changed his life forever with his UFC 241 performance. Worthy, who was the biggest underdog on the card in the +600 to +650 range at most spots but +770 (!!!) at BetOnline, defeated Devonte Smith with a first-round KO. Worthy’s odds to win by KO/TKO were 11/1 and he cashed prop tickets to win in Round 1 for a sensational 20/1 return! Smith fell to 10-2 overall and 3-1 in the UFC. Smith had won his first three UFC fights by first-round knockouts. Worthy, who took the fight on 3.5 days of notice and had to drop 19 pounds in that short span, joined Miocic in taking home an extra 50K with Performance of the Night bonuses. Worthy had won by KO in a fight for a smaller promotion three weeks ago.
–All 21 media members who provided their scores to MMADecisions.com had it 30-27 in favor of Diaz.
–Masvidal had hoped/speculated that Diaz might call him out after a victory in a interview with reporters Friday afternoon. He said he’d love it and would sign on the dotted line immediately. His teammate at American Top Team in South Florida, Colby Covington, is going to get the next shot at Kamaru Usman, who is unbeaten in the UFC and currently holds the welterweight belt after dominating Tyron Woodley earlier this year. When Diaz called him out, the cameras went to Masvidal and he was smiling and excited about the prospects of facing the 209 product. In the same Friday interviews, Masvidal implied Diaz might be his only option because Conor McGregor clearly doesn’t want to fight him. ‘Gamebred’ said, “Dana is shielding him from me saying I’m too big for him. Dana knows what would happen — I would take his soul.”
–From MMADecisions.com: Eleven media members had it 29-28 for Costa, while 10 had it 29-28 for Romero. One media member had it 30-27 for Romero, which is also what my three friends next to me at the bar had it (for whatever that’s worth – if anything!).